Red Hood Teaser Help

In the back of The Stepsister Scheme is a one page teaser ad I wrote for Mermaid’s Madness.  I asked the folks at DAW if I could do one for Red Hood to go into Mermaid, and they said sure.

I need to get this turned in tomorrow.  If anyone wants to take a peek and let me know what you think, I’m sticking the TIP (teaser in progress) behind the cut.  Any and all feedback is appreciated.


Book Winners

First off, thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway for The Stepsister Scheme [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy].  Usually when I do these contests, I end up frustrated that I can’t give out more books.  I was hoping that by giving away four books this time, that might help.  But no.  There were still far too many fun entries, and I’m sorry I can’t just go on a book-giving spree and hand ’em out to everyone.

So with entries on LiveJournal, Facebook, and the Web site, I put together a big old list and used a random number generator to pick two winners: cebuscapucinus and Zachary A. Sheldon.

Actually choosing the other winners took a long time.  I finally settled on:

Adam English, who writes:

I will use my nefarious Microsoft connections to ensure that Windows 7 and/or Bing incorporates subtle subliminal messag…er…a desktop regarding The Stepsister Scheme! And if for some strange reason that doesn’t suffice (or uh, work out), here’s more:

1) After I win the free book, I’ll pass the copy to others with one catch: after reading, they must post a review of the book on Amazon by Oct 6th. Thus you’ll get more than just *my* review!

2) You want your books circulating through the pacific northwest. The caffeinated folks up here are passionate about discussing books and spreading the good word!

S. N. Arly, who writes:

1 – I adore fractured fairy tales and fairy tale re-tellings and really want to read this.
2 – Books that I like, by authors whose readership I want to help expand, get purchased for all gifting occasions.
3 – I’m buying fewer things for myself right now because I’m saving money for my 6 year old dog’s upcoming amputation.

And also jonxarn, who writes:

I should get a copy because your book resonates with me so deeply. You see, I too was the victim of a Stepsister Scheme. It’s difficult to talk about, but for you, Jim, I will tear open the scars.

My stepsister waylaid my true love and secreted her in a giant wicker hamster ball suspended from a golden rope spun from straw*. As soon as I found out, I knew what I had to do. To rescue her, I had to learn valuable lessons about love, life and others as well as the meaning of cheese**. On the way, I met new friends, learned new recipes and found a renewed interest in origami. It was magical***.

*(Though it turns out she had kicked her way free almost immediately****, slapped my stepsister, called my Mom to pick her up and arranged for my stepsister to get counseling. She was, in fact, Maid of Honor at my stepsister’s wedding. True story.)
**Deliciousness. The meaning of cheese is deliciousness.
***I did have to work 10 hour days for a couple of weeks to make up for the time I took off. But at least now I remember how to make an origami bull.
****Turns out wicker is not really known for its ability to resist kicking.

Yes, that’s five winners, not four.  It’s my contest, so I’m allowed.

Would the five winners please contact me with your mailing addresses, and letting me know how you’d like your books signed?  I’ll get those out in the mail next week.  And thanks in advance for the reviews 🙂  They don’t have to be positive, just honest.  (Though I obviously hope you’ll all enjoy it!)

Free Books Friday

I have another IBARW post planned, but haven’t had a chance to write it all out yet.  So instead, I figured I’d just give away some books.

Specifically, I’m giving away four autographed copies of The Stepsister Scheme [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy]. All I ask in return is that you post a review of the book between now and October 6.

Yes, it’s a blatant attempt to get a few more reviews out there before the next book hits the shelves.  But it’s also free books for you, so I figure it’s a win-win.

If you’re interested, post a comment telling me why you should be one of the chosen.  Serious reasons are welcome, as are the not-so-serious.  (Ex: I have my own blimp, and will use this to advertise my review over the Super Bowl.  I invented Google, and will make sure the Google logo incorporates the cover art for Mermaid on 10/6/09.  I’m Chuck Norris!  And so on…)

Two of the books will go to my favorite comments, and the other two winners will be drawn completely at random.  I’ll pick the winners after 1:00 p.m. EST tomorrow , 8/1/09, so you’ve got 24 hours.

As always, thanks to everyone who’s shopped at Amazon through my affiliate links.  You’re the ones making it possible for me to keep giving away free books.

I Hate This Part

IBARW link: rawles talking about Uhura.  “…please consider the point of view from which you are approaching your analysis because experiences vary wildly and one size does not fit all.”  I was troubled by the way Uhura/Spock was presented in the movie.  I don’t know that I agree with 100% of what rawles says here, but she’s given me a great deal to think about, including the perspective and assumptions behind my reactions to that coupling.


I love writing and being a writer (not always the same things).  It still blows my mind sometimes that I’m actually doing this.  That people walk into bookstores and (sometimes) see my stuff on the shelves.  That editors from the Czech Republic e-mail me to ask if they can reprint one of my stories (Ours to Fight For – yay!)  That I get fan mail, for crying out loud!  That’s crazy and wonderful and a little mind-blowing.

Then you have days like yesterday and today, where I’m 85% through the book and hit a brick wall of What-Was-I-Thinking?  The ending just doesn’t work.

I don’t expect plotting to be easy, but I hate what this part does to me.  For 24 hours now, I’ve been stuck.  I’m distracted, trying to fix the ending.  I’m impatient.  I’m cranky and stressed and ticked off at the damn story, and at myself for not catching this earlier.  I can’t imagine I was the most pleasant father/husband to be around last night.

I know I’ll get past this eventually.  I’ve figured out how to fix about half of what I need to.  The rest will come.  But right now, I also know I would be a happier, less stressed person if I wasn’t a writer.

I wouldn’t give it up, and I know it’s not a permanent state, but it’s still frustrating.  I love writing.  I hate when the negative takes over my life like this.  The only comfort is knowing this will vanish the instant I figure out the rest of this plot knot.

And now, back to the brainstorming.  Maybe if I had Red Riding Hood turn out to be a Terminator…

Talking About Mermaid

IBARW link: nojojojo talking about the cost of anger, and addressing the idea that people are just looking for something to be angry about, like it’s some sort of hobby or something.  This one stayed with me.


It was pointed out that while I’ve been freaking out over Red Hood’s Revenge, the rest of the world (I wish!) has been anxiously awaiting the release of The Mermaid’s Madness [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy], which got me thinking maybe I should actually talk about the forthcoming book a little 🙂

1.  First a quick request – DAW has generously provided me a big box of Mermaid bookmarks.  If you’re going to be at a convention in the next 3-4 months and wouldn’t mind dropping bookmarks on the freebies table, please let me know.

2.  I posted on Facebook that my wife had read Mermaid, and after thinking about it a while, has declared it my best book yet.  Any positive review makes me smile, but this one means more than most 🙂  I’m particularly pleased, since this one’s dedicated to her.

3.  I added a new bit to the Goodies page for Mermaid.  Check it out if you want to see the inspiration for Stub, the ship’s cat on the Phillipa (or if you just want to see pics of my three-legged cat Pod).

4.  Finally, one of the turning points for this book–the whole series, actually–came as I was thinking about … well, I’ll put the rest under a cut for spoiler reasons.


Thinking About Freedom of Speech

So this is International Blog Against Racism Week, which seems like a perfect time to point to the Open Letter from the Carl Brandon Society on racial/gender discourse.

I’m hopeful that, as in previous years, I’ll learn some things and get to read and participate in some good discussions this week.  But reading that letter, I found myself wondering how long it would be before I came across the first “Oh noes, the PC Nazis are Censorin’ our Free Speech!” response.  (Answer: not long at all, as it turns out.)

Let’s start with the PC part.  I’m not sure when “Politically Correct” turned into such a ridiculous phrase.  The belief seems to be that, in order to be truly politically correct, I must immediately go through my goblin books, rewriting the goblins as hygienically impaired, height challenged creatures with alternative dietary habits.  (Actually, now I want to write a story about Veka demanding that the rest of the world describe her as a goblyn, but that’s a tangent.)  The point is, people have waved their wands and cast reductio ad absurdium on the whole concept.  We’ve turned it into a joke (perhaps because then it’s easier to ignore it, and we don’t have to actually do anything?)

I keep thinking about the first time someone told me what “politically correct” meant to them.  She said, “I want to be able to choose what label people use to describe me.”  Why is that such a ridiculous premise?  It is really so absurd to think that an individual should have the right to say “I prefer to be called ________”?  To choose to be addressed by a label that isn’t demeaning, insulting, or simply not what that person wants to be called?  People don’t seem to mind that I prefer to be called Jim rather than James, but if the Carl Brandon Society tells Harlan Ellison not to use the term NWA, suddenly it’s a massive inconvenience and political correctness is censoring our freedom.

It annoys me how easily we toss the word “censorship” around.  Spend 30 seconds reading the comment threads for just about any news article that touches on race (the Gates/Crowley stories should provide plenty of reading).  Trust me, there ain’t no PC Censors working in this country.

Complaining because someone censored your comment on his/her blog not only misses the meaning of the word, it’s also rather insulting to those people who have actually had to deal with censorship.

  • People disagreeing with you is not censorship.
  • People stating that they don’t like your cover art and think its racist, sexist, or whatever, is not censorship.
  • People banning you from their blogs is not censorship.
  • For the writers out there, an editor rejecting your story for his/her publication is not censorship.
  • People saying they don’t like something you said is not censorship.
  • People telling you racial slurs are unacceptable is not censorship.
  • People criticising, mocking, or insulting you for choosing to use racial slurs is not censorship.

The nice thing about my country is that you’re free to say just about anything you like.  I don’t have any obligation to provide a platform for your words, but you can certainly go out and create your own.  The very fact that people are writing 1000+ word rants on their blogs about being censored tends to undermine their point.

But freedom of speech does not equal freedom from criticism.  If you say something offensive, you’re probably going to get challenged on it.  If that’s a problem for you, you might want to examine your words more carefully.  Either that or move somewhere that censorship actually exists — that way you can start suppressing those who disagree with you.

We talk about freedom of speech, but I hear very little about responsibility for speech.  You choose your words.  You’re responsible for what you say.  If you say something offensive or insulting, that’s on you.  You might disagree over whether something is offensive, but now we’re getting back to political correctness.  Tell me, who has the right to say whether the word “nigger” is insulting?  Do I as a white man get to tell black people that they’re overreacting and shouldn’t be offended if I use that term?

To put it another way, Freedom of speech does not protect you from the consequences of saying stupid shit.

Busy and Mildly Burnt Out

1.  Shout-out to Rhonda Parrish, who won the Mermaid’s Madness ARC Auction.  The winning bid was $105, so I was surprised to find a PayPal e-mail which read, “$125 was the highest I was going to allow myself to bid. Since I was willing to spend that much, I don’t see why I shouldn’t send that much — it’s going to a great cause.”  Rhonda — you win at awesome.  Thank you!

2.  You know, I like this book.  I think Red Hood’s Revenge has a lot going for it.  There’s a revelation about Talia’s past that kicks ass, nifty ideas about Arathean society, some development of events from Mermaid’s Madness, a bit of romance, and of course, Red Riding Hood: Badass Assassin.  That said, I’m still at the point where I’m counting down the days until I can turn the damn thing in and be done with it for a while.  72000 words and counting.

3.  It’s International Blog Against Racism Week.  I find the timing fortuitous, given recent online events in SF/Fdom.

4.  My department has determined that we should have five full-time employees doing customer support.  Today there were two of us.  This is not unusual.  Thus the mild burn-out.  I’m still grateful for the stable job with benefits.  But some days I’m more grateful than others.

Change of Plans

Originally, the plan was to mow the lawn, then try to get some more work done on the Red Hood’s Revenge rewrite before heading off to the RPG.  The past two days have been quite productive from a writing standpoint: two more chapters finished, and I crossed the 70,000 word mark yesterday.

Plans change.

The glasses were four years old, so I guess I can’t complain too much. Wish me luck finding a decent pair that doesn’t break the budget.

Anyone know that Oculus Reparo spell from Harry Potter?

Fundraising for NCADV and BARCC

Today is the last day to bid in the Mermaid’s Madness Auction for NCADV.  Bidding is currently at $105, which means the winner not only gets an autographed ARC, but s/he will also receive another of my books as a bonus.  (Winner’s choice.)

shadesong is doing a blogathon to raise money for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.  Details here.  Also see the sponsorship link and auctions.

And just to provide a break from the intensity of the past few days, have a LEGO zombie uprising, courtesy of Steam Pirate (check out the entire set on Flicker):

Fantasy Covers: Doin’ it Right?

My thanks to everyone who’s been contributing to the fantasy cover discussion, both here and elsewhere.

One of the things that came up in comment discussion was that in addition to talking about covers which are problematic, it’s just as important if not more so to look at covers that work.  Many of the following links and images come out of yesterday’s comments.  Thanks again to everyone who suggested them.

ETA: The fact that I picked these covers does not mean they’re Good And Right, or that everyone must approve.  My taste is my own, and I have blind spots like anyone else, so please feel free to disagree.

oldcharliebrown pointed to a gallery of old Realms covers.  While a lot of the old covers are frankly painful, there are some good ones as well. I really like the first cover below, though it doesn’t necessarily feel like fantasy. But I think it’s a great image on many levels, and very evocative. As for the second, well, you can’t go wrong with Xena, right? Realms has always had a bit of a media focus, but given some of the more feminist stories within the magazine, I think Xena was a very good choice.

Another commenter brought up Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword & Sorceress books, which have done a great job of … well, actually clothing our heroines for more than 25 years.  To me, a lot of these covers portray women who are strong and beautiful without the need for the helpless half-naked damsel trope.

The Chicks in Chainmail series from Esther Friesner is an interesting one.  Instead of trying to avoid the bikini warrior women, these books take the whole concept and completely invert the power and dynamics.  Of the five books in the series, these two are my favorite covers.


dirigibletrance pointed to this cover from Psychology Today, which earned a number of “I’d buy that magazine!” comments.

I debated posting one of my own covers, then decided the heck with it.  Personally, I really like the way Scott Fischer captured the characters.  I could have done without Talia’s cleavage, but overall, I like the aura of competence and confidence he put into this.

I liked the cover of Jade Dragon, by Jenn Reese.  No clothes at all, but it doesn’t feel exploitative to me.  It’s not that nudity per se is necessarily bad or sexist or anything like that.  This feels appropriate for the book (fantasy/romance), and I thought it was a good cover.

As a reader, which of these would make you pick up the magazine/book?  What works, what would you like to see more of, and what other examples are out there that I’ve missed?  (This was only a sampling.  I know there are a lot of other good covers.)

Jim C. Hines